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Patriarch Emeritus

Pastoral Letters





Pentecost 2006
Dormition Abbey,
 Jerusalem June 4th 2006

                Happy and blessed Pentecost.

1.                     We are celebrating Pentecost, the Spirit that came down on the Apostles and has been giving continuity to the presence of Jesus among mankind. They have received the Spirit as Jesus had promised and were filled with new life and a new power. Before receiving the Spirit, they were scared. They had not fully understood everything Jesus had told them. Indeed, even the last days before the Ascension, they ask Jesus when the Kingdom will be given back to Israel. By the help of the Spirit, they now understand of which kind of kingdom they have become citizens and have been charged to announce it. It is no longer an earthly kingdom as Jesus had said to Pilate: “My Kingdom is not of this world.” It is God’s Kingdom on earth among all peoples of the earth. They don’t belong to a given land any longer, neither to a language nor even to a nation. From now on, they belong to God and to his work of salvation.

2.                    Like them we all have become capable of receiving the Spirit who is striving for life and peace as St. Paul says in the first reading (Rom 8,5-27) we have just heard. God’s Spirit dwells in us, too. And that is why we deserve to be called children of God: “Those are sons of God”, St. Paul says, “who are led by the Spirit of God”. From now on, by baptism and confirmation, we have the Spirit within ourselves who “bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” Like the Apostles, we don’t belong to a single people and to a single country any longer. Like them,
we belong to God and to his work of salvation. Our ambitions and our hopes are no longer bound to a single people, to a single kingdom. Filled by the Spirit, our joy and our suffering from now on are the joy and the suffering of every human person.

3.                     Today we are also celebrating the 100th anniversary of this Benedictine Abbey on Mt. Sion whose community is welcoming us here to receive the Spirit. For 100 years they have been giving life to the event and the mystery we are venerating here. Here the Spirit came down on the Apostles. Here the monks who arrived first 100 years ago have continued the prayer of the Apostles and their testimony of the resurrection and the presence of the Spirit in this city. In this same place and in this same holy city, many, instead of listening to the voice of God and instead of receiving the Spirit of life and peace, continue to follow the powers of death within themselves and in their relations with others. Unfortunately, there are still people in this city of Pentecost who cannot live their lives except by the death and exclusion of others. Facing this drama, the monks have been praying here, they have resumed the prayer of Christian generations in this place. Still today they are praying that all inhabitants of this city may be able – everybody in his own language – to hear about the miracles of the Lord and to let themselves be filled with God’s Spirit who is freedom and liberation for everyone. St. Paul says: “You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear”, but a Spirit in whom and by whom you recognize yourselves to be all children of the same Father who is in heaven, by whom you all have received the power to address the same Father and call him: Abba, Father.

Today we are grateful to the Benedictine monks on Mt. Sion for their prayer and for their testimony for life and the Spirit in the entire Church of Jerusalem and in front of all those who bear war and death in their hearts. By the way, this monastery has been directly affected by the fires of war and has been lying next to “no man’s land” for a long time, marking separation and hostility, before it rediscovered itself on the summit and in the heart of the city, of its prayers and its stumbling steps towards justice and peace.

4.                     Every Pentecost we pray that the Holy Spirit may renew the face of our earth and of our society, that he may renew the hearts and make them capable for the truth and for unity, based on the equal dignity of all human beings in a country which is simultaneously ruled by the mystery of God and the conflict among men likewise.

                In this land of the redemption, of God’s reconciliation with man we don’t cease to live in an enduring situation of injustice that causes death of the oppressed and of the perpetrator of this injustice likewise, who might believe that maintaining the injustice he would offer a sacrifice to God. Pentecost tells us that we cannot limit ourselves to see death and injustice and to continue watching it silently or indifferently. In this country, in this holy city there is a political injustice that has to be ended, an injustice which produces other forms of injustice. This forces the human person into a circle of violence and inhumanity in spite of all the skilful and vindicating presentations of the different parties, in spite of true and justified desires of all the parties to achieve security, a return to liberty, an end of occupation. With the end of occupation, with the end of injustice and oppression, this land may calm down and may become again the land of the redemption, and the international community may calm down and may achieve security. For that, we, believers, need to let ourselves be filled by God’s Spirit and not to resist against the Spirit, preferring to keep silent before the evil of this conflict that is going on.

5.                     The Apostles remained in prayer. They were scared by their fellow-citizens and fellow-believers. They had been following an “innovator”. Together with the Virgin Mary and in God’s presence they had sought refuge from the persecution of the people.
The Holy Spirit came down on them in form of tongues of fire. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” – „And there were dwelling at Jerusalem devout men, from every nation under heaven,” says the book of the Acts of the Apostles. These devout men said: “We hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

                Until today there are still devout men in Jerusalem from all nations and different religions, men and women as well who live guided by the Spirit and who by their prayers forestall the evil of those who wage war against the Spirit and against man. Devout men and women who want to hear the Church of Jerusalem, the Churches of Jerusalem “speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God”, speaking about justice and equality of everyone in this land before God and before mankind.

                Still the Church of Jerusalem in its diversity continues to speak several languages and carries various mentalities. This diversity needs to be filled by the Spirit so that it does not express only human interests, egoisms and points of view. It needs the Spirit of Pentecost, that in different languages and mentalities it may only proclaim, even today, the wonderful works of God.

                Brothers and sisters, for this we pray this morning, that the Spirit may fill us as it has filled the Apostles, that we may be obedient to the Spirit like them, and that we may be able to transform like them our various languages and cultures into a single hymn to let people hear and see the wonders of God, and that our word might be a source of life and that renders us all capable to receive God’s Spirit. Amen.

+ Michel Sabbah, Patriarch


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